The Relationship between Explicit and Implicit Knowledge and Influence on Language Teaching
Tian Fengjuan, associate professor, Public Foreign Language Teaching and Research Department of Changchun University (China)
Liu Xiaozheng, master, lecturer
Foreign Language School of Changchun University (China)
Тянь Фэнцзюань, магистр, доцент;
Лю Сяочжэн, магистр, старший преподаватель
Чанчуньский университет (Китай)
Explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge play positive role in promoting language level and they are complementary.In foreign language teaching,teachers should correctly deal with the dynamic weight between them,strengthenthe teaching of grammar and cultivate students’sense of group and combine them in teaching organically.
Key words: explicit knowledge; implicit knowledge; dynamic weight.
From the recent research situation, although there are consistent research findings on explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge insecond language acquisition, researches are mainly around the correlation between explicit/implicit instruction and performance of foreign language. Thus, there is little agreement on the cogent relationship between implicit and explicit knowledge, and researchers only make a demonstration or explanation in theory. Therefore, this paper will introduce the definition of explicit and implicit knowledge, the relationship between them and their influence on language teaching so as to cause the focus of foreign language researchers and teaching staff on this issue.
Definitions of Implicit and Explicit Knowledge
Krashen firstly proposed the distinction of two typesof knowledge—implicit and explicit language knowledge that could explain that learners may possess a second language.
Explicit knowledge is a kind of knowledge that can be acquired consciously by learners, which means learners know the knowledge. Explicit language knowledge consists of knowledge related to language including general language knowledge and specific grammar knowledge. Language learners know vocabulary and sentences contained in linguistic, which refers to general language knowledge. If language learners know the reason for inversion of subject and predicate, it means language learners possess specific knowledge. It’s important to note that consciousness here is different from intuitive consciousness. Native speaker may intuitively know why certain sentence is ungrammatical but can’t explain the reason. On this condition he just possesses implicit language knowledge instead of explicit knowledge. Compared with condition above, he knows why certain sentence is ungrammatical and knows why the sentence is ungrammatical as well, which means he possesses explicit language knowledge. Therefore, explicit knowledge is a type of knowledge that can be described by language, and traditional descriptive grammar provides language learners with explicit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge can be learned. Reber, A.S (1967) insists that the acquisition of implicit knowledge is disturbed by starting learning age while the learning of explicit knowledge isn’t disturbed by age, even adult language learners can learn language rules. What’s more, learning condition doesn’t have an influence on the learning of explicit knowledge. There is no essential distinction between explicit knowledge learnedin second language environment and foreign language environment respectively. Because of explicit knowledge learns’ ability and no age limitation, if explicit knowledge can transform into implicit knowledge, it will be helpful for acquisition of implicit knowledge.
Implicit knowledge refers to tacit knowledge. During the process of acquiring mother tongue, children unconsciously master the characteristics and regulation of mother tongue and knowledge concerning mother tongue implies implicit knowledge. When children possess the ability of applying their mother tongue, they don’t realize that the relative knowledge which has been internalized as implicit knowledge. In other words, they can’t describe the reason for why certain sentence is ungrammatical even though they know certain sentence is ungrammatical.
Sun Ju (2006) defines implicit knowledge as occasionally acquired, implicitly stored, automatically used knowledge. Krashen, S. D (1982) notes that implicit knowledge of native speaker may be either formulaic knowledge or rule-based knowledge. Some chunks that express fixed meaning are representatives of formulaic knowledge. Like “How do you do”, “I don’t know”, their syntactic structure can be further decomposed. Rule-based knowledge is hidden which language learners are not aware of, just like native speakerswho can apply hidden language rules to daily conversation and understand lots of sentences which are creative and grammatical without conscious efforts.
In fact, the success ratio of L2 acquisition is not far from what has been expected, which is related to the starting learning age and learning environment. Ellis, R (1994) thinks that there is a distinction on acquisition speed and language competence of adults and children because of explicit learning process of adult learners. So through explicit learning or explicit teaching, Chinese EFL learners can learn explicit knowledge and if the transformation between explicit and implicit knowledge does occur, it will help Chinese EFL learners learn foreign language.
The Relationship between Implicit and Explicit Knowledge
In the light of the relationship between implicit and explicit knowledge, three distinguishing theoretical models have been proposed, which has been debated in terms of the interface between them. The viewpoints on issues of transformation between explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge can be summarized and presented as non-interface position, strong-interface position and weak-interface position. Although different researchers insist different opinions on interface theory, actually the starting points of dealing with the transformation of explicit and implicit knowledge are different. Non-interface position focuses on mental representation of knowledge claiming no transformation between two types of knowledge. From the point of storing, processing and transforming data, strong interface position declares consciously practicing language knowledge can be automatically used by language learners unconsciously. Weak interface position holders thinks there is crossover between explicit/implicit knowledge anddeclarative/procedural knowledge, and on the very condition explicit knowledge will promote the acquisition of implicit knowledge.
Firstly, non-interface position regards the two types of knowledge as dichotomous, and negates both the possibility of explicit knowledge converting directly into implicit knowledge and the possibility of implicit knowledge transforming into explicit knowledge. Typically Gu Qiyi (2005) has been a representative of this viewpoint, who insists that explicit knowledge can only play a role to monitor the output produced by implicit knowledge. The non-interface position has been toughly proposed by Zhang Ren (2004) who invokes neurological evidence to claim that bilinguals who have learned their second language and consequently have plenty of L2 knowledge, will lose the ability to speak their native language in aphasia while retaining the ability to speak the L2 unskillfully. He also suggests that practice is not available to transform explicit knowledge into implicit, however, there is no substantial evidence to be provided yet. Accord with Krashen, Ellis argues that the two types of knowledge are dichotomous.
Strong Interface Position
Secondly, strong interface position, on the contrary, regards the two types of knowledge as successive and notes that either can implicit knowledge be transform into explicit knowledge or can implicit knowledge be derived from explicit knowledge by practicing. By citing the evidence from Guo Xiuyan’s (2004) research that implicit linguistic knowledge gets gradually more explicit in children, people give the recognition that the distinction of implicit and explicit knowledge does exist but view the relationship between the implicit/explicit knowledge as a continuum other than a dichotomy. As is defined, implicit knowledge refers to a matter of procedural knowledge; on the other hand, explicit knowledge means a subset of declarative knowledge. On the basis of the skill-building theories proposed by Guo Xiuyan (2004), declarative knowledge is available to evolve into procedural knowledge by practicing. The similar viewpoint that proceduralized explicit knowledge can be thought of “functionally equivalent” to implicit is suggested.
All the position hypotheses having their supporters have been the heated topic of arguments in the SLA literature in recent years. Additionally, after retrospecting a number of neurobiological and psychological processes through which explicit knowledge of form-meaning associations has an influence on implicit language learning. Sun Ju (2006) proclaims for the dynamic interface between implicit and explicit knowledge and elaborates how implicit and explicit knowledge are separable but synergic.
The matter of the interface between the two kinds of knowledge plainly needs to make a further and thorough inquiry by researchers from both applied linguistics and cognitive psychology. Particularly, the three models about it can only be measured by putting them into empirical research. A plausible way of measuring non-interface or the interfacesuppositions, as proclaimed by Sun Ju (2006), is to manipulate an experimental inquiry during which Chinese EFL learners are explicitly taught a specific grammatical rule at first, subsequently progress explicit knowledge of this rule, and in final, develop implicit knowledge of the rule as the consequence of practice.
The Influence ofImplicit and Explicit Knowledge on the Language Teaching
The Dynamic Balance between Implicit and Explicit Teaching
There is a close and trade-off relationship between implicit and explicit learning, and the independence of them is relative. Sometimes the learners can still use a learned rule correctly when they may have forgotten how to express it. And sometimes thereis a rule students haven’t learned consciously in their language. Although implicit learning has the characteristics of automatic, robust, generality and low variability, it can also save the cognitive resources, and reduce the load of attention resource allocation and working memory.Therefore, it has a central position in the whole system, which is one of the important factors that affect the learning efficiency of the language learning. However, it is not possible to have a complete implicit language learning mechanism or a complete explicit language learning mechanism. It can be seen from the view of static point of language learning, mother tongue learning is given priority to the implicit learning, while second language learning is given priority to the explicit learning.It can be seen from the view of dynamic process, language learning sometimes is given priority to the explicit learning, sometimes given priority to the outside explicit learning, and sometimes explicit and implicit half.
Strengthen Grammar Teaching and the Cultivation of Students’ sense of Language
Complex cognitive activities need to be carried out in two kinds of cognitive mechanisms. Only explicit instruction and implicit cognitive teaching which are in the cognitive system combine, the reaching efficiency can be effectively improved. In the specific grammar teaching, people should pay attention to the order, namely implicitfirst and explicit later, which is complementary to the teaching principle of “first emotional and later rational”. At the same time, based on the ultimate goal of foreign language teaching, that is to cultivate the students’ listening, speaking, reading and writing ability, the teachers should strengthen the implicit learning, and pay attention to cultivate students’ sense of language. The research on implicit learning by psychologists shows that the sense of language is a “Epiphany”, which is learned through implicit learning, people unconsciously try to find the language structure under the rules, can be accurately used in speech acts. This is the sense of the automatic process, it can be realized but can not be expressedby using language. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to the role of implicit learning in foreign language teaching.
In summary, both the explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge have a role to improve the level of language, the two complete each other, and neither of them can be missing. When learning conditions are favorable, these two forms of learning can be transformed into each other, and they can be both rational and intuitive. In the Chinese context, only the two kinds of learning mechanisms are organically integrated, can foreign language learning make substantial progress. In addition, different people have different personalities and study habits, some rely on intuition, and others rely on a rational way of learning. Teachers should respect for the students of their choice on the basis of providing effective learning methods in the specific teaching activities, and make students experience and comprehend language as far as possible, which is conducive to the effect of language teaching.
- Reber, A.S (1967). Implicit learning of artificial grammars. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior (pp. 855–863).
- Sun Ju (2006). Study of new progress in implicit and explicit learning of the second language. Foreign Language World (pp. 39–45).
- Krashen, S. D (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.
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